Catherine Brandt

Catherine Brandt

The New York Times recently published an opinion piece by Peter Singer asserting that some charitable causes are more important and, consequently, more worthy of philanthropic dollars. In the piece, Singer singles out arts, culture, and heritage institutions as less deserving. Both Laura Zucker, executive director of L.A. County Arts Commission, and Janet Brown, President and CEO of Grantmakers in the Arts, submitted rebuttals to The New York Times. As the paper has yet to publish them, we thought we would share them with you here instead:

 

To the Editor

Re: “Good Charity, Bad Charity” in the August 11 Sunday Review section, Mr. Singer assumes that charitable giving is a zero sum game. It isn’t. People give for a wide variety of reasons, including personal passions and social connectivity, and can almost always be motivated to give more when presented with compelling opportunities to make a difference. Making that difference can be both about mitigating the evils of the world and building on our assets, particularly when the effects of either are almost never as easy to quantify as the example Mr. Singer uses. How would the net benefits of his giving equation change if the charity working to reduce the incidence of trachoma was ineffectual at reaching the people who needed its services most and the museum building its new wing instituted a local hiring program that reduced the unemployment rate and enabled more people to purchase health insurance?

~Laura Zucker, Executive Director; L.A. County Arts Commission

 

Either-Or is Harmful to Charities and Society

Peter Singer’s Sunday, August 11 NY Times article entitled “Good Charity, Bad Charity” was a shocker. One would expect something a bit more far-reaching and not quite so simplistic from a bioethicist. American philanthropy, individual to institutional, reflects support for charities that represent the entire human spectrum. People are multitasking in charitable giving, just as they have multiple passions in their lives. It is what you would expect from a diverse country with a rich history of charitable giving.

Pitting charitable sectors against each other is an unseemly answer to the betterment of a society that, hopefully, strives to both eradicate suffering and promote an informed and satisfied citizenry. As President of Grantmakers in the Arts, I was appalled by Mr. Singer’s use of a museum as an example of “bad charity.” What kind of society or civilization would not value its history enough to share it with future generations? That history, whether told through art, culture, medicine or politics, is the journey of humankind. Interestingly, a primary value of the arts and humanities is empathy, understanding and pronouncing the pain of others in order to improve our condition as human beings. The willingness to preserve artistic and cultural treasures and interpret events past and present is a valuable part of any society that deems itself caring about its world citizens. Read the rest of this entry »

Robert L. Lynch

Robert L. Lynch

The Conference Board recently released their 2013 CEO Challenge Report, which outlined the top five global challenges for CEOs:

  1. Human Capital
  2. Operational Excellence
  3. Innovation
  4. Customer Relationships, and
  5. Global Political Economic Risk.

As CEO of Americans for the Arts, these challenges obviously resonated with me. But they also struck a chord with the arts advocate in me.

I know that the arts industry can feel very foreign to the business community. But as companies seek new ways to build their competitive advantage, they are increasingly finding that the arts are the key to driving true innovation, ultimately reaching their business goals. So in fact, the arts can play a tremendously important role in helping CEOs address each of the challenges outlined in the CEO Challenge Report. Read the rest of this entry »

Lisa Phillips

Lisa Phillips

There are many things I don’t know about life and how the world works, but there are two things I know for certain. The first is that young people are less prepared for the working world than they were 20 years ago. The second is that there is something we can do about it!

Don’t get me wrong, young people today are energetic, caring about the environment and passionate about social justice. However, when it comes to the skills they need to conquer the competitive nature of the working world, there is some work to be done. Success skills such as effective communication, accountability, finding solutions to challenges, and adaptability are just some of the areas that the current generation is lacking.

So where can they learn them?

In those “nice to have, but not need to have” programs that our school boards seem to be cutting like they were last year’s fashions…THE ARTS!

If parents, educators and policy makers would just LOOK and see what I see, they would recognize an untapped opportunity to catapult 21st century students toward achieving their goals in life. I would like to offer 6 reasons why the arts offer excellent opportunities to develop these vital success skills.

1.     The Arts Don’t Focus on Right & Wrong

The simple fact is, if we learn mainly in an environment in which we pump out answers that are either right or wrong, with no middle ground or room for creativity, we will begin to see the whole world as black and white. We will expect every problem to have a right answer. Participation in the arts opens up our mind to the possibility that the world is full of color and there is more than one way to achieve a goal. When the pressure of needing to find the right answer is removed, it becomes easier to take a risk and try – and trying is the only way to succeed. Read the rest of this entry »

John R. Kilacky

John R. Killacky

Vermont, like many states, is considering comprehensive tax reform. Committees in the Vermont Senate and House developed proposals last legislative session and systemic changes seem high on the agenda for the 2014 session. Key components focus on increasing the portion of personal income that is taxed by capping deductions, including charitable contributions.

If passed, this revision to the tax code would negatively affect the work of nonprofit organizations statewide.

Vermont’s robust nonprofit sector comprises nearly 4,000 human, social service, educational, religious, and cultural organizations, ranking us No. 1 per capita in the nation. The Vermont Community Foundation reported in 2010 that these agencies generate $4.1 billion in annual revenue and represent 18.7 percent of our gross state product.

Nonprofits deliver critical services that government alone cannot provide: sheltering, caring for, and feeding those less fortunate; early childhood education; and cultural enrichment are just a few examples. Nonprofits include schools, hospitals, churches, libraries, community health clinics, workforce development centers, mentoring programs, homeless shelters, food banks, theaters, and galleries.

Some focus on specific populations: providing safe spaces for women, LGBT youth, refugees, the disabled, and migrant workers. They range from small, volunteer-run groups to huge universities. Although more than 80 percent of Vermont’s nonprofits operate with budgets of less than $250,000 each year.

By delivering mission-related programs, nonprofits improve lives and transform communities. Investing in early intervention is more cost-effective than dealing with societal dysfunction later in life. Food and shelter vs. homelessness, after-school tutoring vs. illiteracy, involved children vs. disengaged teens, job skills training vs. unemployment, community vs. isolation — consider the alternatives. Read the rest of this entry »

Lydia Black

Lydia Antunes Black

When we partnered with Americans for the Arts to conduct an Arts & Economic Prosperity ™ customized economic impact study for Lee County , we were expecting to gain numbers—quantitative benchmarks against which we could eventually measure our progress.  We did get numbers, and plenty of them, but the value of the data exceeded all of my expectations.  Our community’s Arts & Economic Prosperity story is about funding and advocacy.  But above and beyond that, it is about the new ways we found of connecting to one another within the nonprofit arts sector and nationally through the data collection process. It’s about how we learned an entirely new language that has allowed inroads into business and government through the analysis and report.  Our community’s story is about rallying the many groups doing important work on the ground, and helping to bring us together through our shared goal of supporting the arts in Lee County.  This report belongs to us all.  That is why, despite our organization growing from 300 members to 1000, or turning around a deficit into a balanced budget, the customized Arts & Economic Prosperity report is still the piece I am most proud of in my tenure as Executive Director.

The Lee County Alliance for the Arts works hard to support itself, a truth supported by the fact that earned revenue accounts for more than 80 percent of our operating budget.  For that reason, we carefully considered our decision to spend those dollars on an economic impact study.  But there is no doubt in my mind that the return on investment has more than made up for it.  Today, we are still reaping the benefits of our commitment.  Before the study, we were not speaking the same language as our business and government leaders. With the economic impact findings, we are now able to prove, with hard numbers and data, that the arts community is a socio-economic driver and an important partner in the economic revitalization of Lee County.  We, the nonprofit arts community, are part of the solution. Read the rest of this entry »

Bruce Whitacre

Bruce Whitacre

A little over a year ago, National Corporate Theatre Fund (NCTF) announced the launch of Impact Creativity, a three-year, $5 million effort to secure the funding of education programs at our 19 theatres. Together, these theatres serve over 500,000 K-12 children and youth, with the large number of students experiencing the student matinée programs. We were very grateful to Ernst and Young for their contribution in 2012 that got the ball rolling.

Now, we are focusing our efforts on the world of innovation and creativity going on at our theatres. Seattle Rep Theatre is helping teachers better utilize arts techniques to enliven the classroom. Actors Theatre of Louisville is engaging students in classrooms through a Living Newspaper playwriting program. The Goodman Theatre is teaching STEM skills through a study of theatre magic found in their production of A Christmas Carol. Altogether, we identified 19 innovative projects and began asking our funding partners to help theatres sustain this creative burst through what we call our Impact Creativity Innovation Program.

These include programs designed for an array of children with different and sometimes challenging circumstances: Trinity Rep Active Imagination Network (TRAIN) in Providence engages children in the autism spectrum; Walnut Street Theatre in Philadelphia engages kids with plays that address diversity, civil rights and bullying, among other subjects; and American Conservatory Theater in San Francisco and Manhattan Theatre Club in New York are working with youth caught up in the criminal justice and school discipline systems. For a complete list of the programs, click here.

Happily, by the close of our fiscal year in June, several individuals, foundations and companies were as impressed with these programs as we were. Individual donors and family foundations joined us in sustaining these innovation programs. And the Hearst Foundations, one of the few national foundations active in the arts, provided a $100,000 grant for these programs. We have not met the full cost – total budgets for these projects in 2013-14 are nearly $1 million – but we are on our way.

As we continue to pursue support for these programs, a few things are becoming more and more clear. First, arts education supporters face unprecedented challenges. We have been around a long time and the field is very competitive. Years of advocacy can create a kind of fatigue around the issue. Schools and families, especially in disadvantaged neighborhoods, are more challenged than ever to engage. And that is not just for financial reasons. Rapidly changing school leadership, family instability and the challenge of sustaining the service to those who would most benefit from it affect arts education as they do all subjects. More problematic, research in the field is needed to document what is virtually universally known on an anecdotal basis: theatre education changes lives. Read the rest of this entry »

Happiness Is The Arts

Posted by Stephanie Milling On August - 14 - 20133 COMMENTS
Stephanie Milling

Stephanie Milling

The last couple of weeks, two interesting news stories that shared conflicting perspectives of the arts were reported on the NBC Nightly News. The first report told the story of a failing school in Boston that was turned around when the principal chose to eliminate the funding that customarily subsidized the security force and invest it in the arts. This move that some considered controversial at Orchard Gardens , a school in Roxbury, MA, resulted in one of the fastest student improvement rates statewide. The other anecdotal evidence that students, teachers, and the principal shared during the report reinforced evidence that arts advocates have always had statistics to support: students who study the arts in school perform better in the classroom and demonstrate more prosocial behavior. As an arts advocate, this feel good story tugged at my heart strings. I was satisfied that this principal’s quest to prove the value of the arts in education proved fruitful. As a former teacher in schools like Orchard Gardens, I was delighted to see a failing school turned around.

The second report featured the retailer, The Children’s Place, and the demands to stop selling a girls t-shirt after complaints that it portrayed a sexist stereotype. The shirt said “my best subjects,” and featured checkboxes next to shopping, music, dance, and math. The boxes next to shopping, music, and dance contained checks while the box next to math was empty. While the controversy surrounding the shirt was motivated by individuals who viewed the shirt as sexist—and I am not denying that it was sexist–I was also bothered by the fact that it trivialized dance and music as core subject areas. By selling such a product, The Children’s Place and the t-shirt designer communicated that young women are intellectually inferior to their male peers and that studying the arts is equivalent to shopping.

While the first news report portrayed the type of story that supports the work arts advocates do in this country, the second illustrates the need for continued dialogue with those who fail to understand the value of the arts in education—even if the faux pas was unintentional. While there are many ways to approach the dialogue of why students benefit from studying the arts with statistics and research to support this perspective, lately I have been thinking of a more straightforward point of entry into the conversation that might resonate with multiple audiences: engagement in the arts can lead to happiness. While approaching a conversation about the value of the arts in education with the idea that it makes us happy might sound facetious, I think it might help develop some common ground between those advocating on behalf of the arts and those who need to be more receptive to the idea that engagement in the arts leads to success in other academic subjects and life. Read the rest of this entry »

For over 30 years as a K-12 English & Theater teacher, I have witnessed how the arts have impacted the lives of so many people, young and old. The stories and research are endless, and yet the arts continue to be cut from school curriculums across the nation.  Despite arts advocacy groups’ efforts to prevent this decline, the budgetary solution remains to be that the arts are perceived as extra-curricular and disposable.

This is nothing farther from the truth: the arts challenge us to not only dare but also explore the myriad of possibilities of WHAT IF…

Upset over the slashing of arts programs in schools I decided to do something about it. I started First Online With Fran to highlight ordinary people who are doing extraordinary things to make the arts the fabric of our existence. Utilizing testimonials, videos, and interviews First on Line with Fran serves to be the sounding board to let the world know that, “We’re angry as hell and we’re not gonna take it anymore!”

For my most recent episode, I got a bunch of kids from Brooklyn Theatre Arts High School and asked them to respond to the statement:  The Arts are extra-curricular and disposable.

Please take 6 minutes and listen to what they have to say…

vid clip

This is where my passion lies, and this is my way of raising awareness and advocating for the arts included in education. Read the rest of this entry »

Mitchell Kaplan, owner of Books & Books

Mitchell Kaplan, owner of Books & Books

Miami native Mitchell Kaplan sits surrounded by books.  In a time when the number of independent booksellers dropped from over 6,000 to just under 2,000, Kaplan has successfully built an arts and business hybrid that is Books & Books. His establishment is a success story, thanks in part to his relationships with the authors that create the books he sells and to the community.  Thirty-two years ago, Kaplan had a vision to create a place to congregate outside of work and the home.  He wanted an environment where people could meet, relax, share knowledge while celebrating the local literary and cultural community.

In 1983 he helped establish the internationally recognized Miami International Book Fair. He and several other community leaders got the call from Miami Dade College President, Eduardo Padron, to create a community-wide book event that would bring a larger audience to the Wolfson campus. From the start it celebrated writers and readers and has grown into one of the top festivals in the country, a week-long celebration of all things literary. The event includes author readings, showcase events, and children’s activities. As co-founder of the fair, Kaplan has served on the board for over 30 years and helped develop the Florida Center for the Literary Arts. Today, Books & Books hosts over 700 literary events each year in Miami. Kaplan’s team is also actively involved in bringing nearly 400 artists to the Miami International Book Fair. In addition, his stores host unique events with dozens of arts groups and artists each year.

We sat down with Mitchell Kaplan to talk about his unique experiences working as both a small business owner and supporter of our local cultural community. Read the rest of this entry »

The Athens Cultural Affairs Commission (ACAC), which advises Athens-Clarke County’s mayor and commission on cultural affairs and aesthetic development, has launched a ACAC_symbol_text_RGB_smallnew partnership with the Athens Area Chamber of Commerce.

Since its conception two years ago, ACAC has been busy developing new procedures, starting and completing new public art installations, and considering the many opportunities and possibilities for growth and support of the arts. In that time, the work and responsibilities of ACAC have grown rapidly. This growth produced two critical needs: staff assistance and visible, accessible office space.

Thanks to the help of the county government and county commissioners, and to Athens Area Chamber of Commerce President Doc Eldridge’s vision to bring an arts component to the chamber family, ACAC now has a place to hang its hat.

We are all aware that developing collegial relationships results in better outcomes. The opportunity has now been created for the organizations housed at the Chamber office to continue sharing, discussing, and collaborating on projects with the added perspectives and contributions of the arts. What makes this new partnership especially exciting is the fact that the arts fit so well with the chamber’s mission to help its members and the community grow and prosper.

I recently attended a public art conference in Pittsburgh as part of the Americans for the Arts National Conference. Americans for the Arts and businesses across the United States came together to create the pARTnership Movement, a resource for educating and connecting businesses and arts organizations. Their purpose is to provide opportunities, information, and resources to achieve the greatest level of benefit for both. Read the rest of this entry »

Full Cmte 4

Full Appropriations Committee Yesterday, July 31

In mid-July, the appropriations subcommittee that oversees funding for the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) met to approve a funding bill for fiscal year 2014, which begins on October 1st. Their bill calls for the NEA to receive a 49% cut totaling $71 million, which would bring the agency’s budget down to $75 million, a level not seen since 1974!

Yesterday, the full appropriations committee began their consideration of the bill, expected to take a few hours. However, they faced numerous amendments and rising tempers, and everyone has had an eye on adjourning for August – so they suspended the committee markup until September.

Before they stopped, they did consider an amendment offered by senior appropriator Rep. Nita Lowey (D-NY) and Rep. David Price (D-NC) to fund the NEA (and the National Endowment for the Humanities) to the president’s request of $154 million. The amendment was defeated along a party-line vote of 19-27.

The 49% budget cut that remains in place is shocking, but not necessarily surprising. Leading up to the committee’s action, the House of Representatives approved a budget resolution which included the sequester cuts of about 5% to agency budgets, and an overall funding plan that reduced the entire bill by 19%. So, arts advocates and those who were closely watching from the environmental and natural resource communities were not surprised to see significant cuts proposed. However, a 49% reduction to an independent federal agency is misguided, counterproductive, and entirely disproportionate.

Final FY 2013
(includes 5% sequester cut)

FY 2014 President’s
Request

FY 2014 House Subcommittee
Proposal

National Endowment for the Arts

$138.4
million

$154.466 million

$75
million

National Endowment for the Humanities

$138.4
million

$154.466 million

$75
million

The arts community recognizes the challenges our elected leaders face in prioritizing federal resources. In fact, funding for the NEA has already been cut by more than $29 million over the past three years. These disproportionate cuts recall the dramatic decline of federal funding for the arts in the early 90s, from which the agency has still not recovered. Read the rest of this entry »

Meri Jenkins

Meri Jenkins

Launched in 2011, the Massachusetts Cultural Districts Initiative addresses community revitalization, business development, new income generation, job growth, cultural tourism, the development of space for artists, and the preservation and rehabilitation of the state’s historic landmarks and cultural treasures. Seventeen diverse communities have achieved cultural district designation so far, and we have forty more in the pipeline.

In designing the initiative, we wanted to give cities and towns new tools and resources to strengthen local economies by focusing on their culturally rich downtowns and neighborhoods. We deliberately positioned local government at the center of our approach, and so it is the municipality that is the applicant. Local government has the authority to remove barriers that help foster and promote a cultural economic development agenda by changing or amending regulations, using their convening power to engage stakeholders, and providing capacity and focus.

Before submitting an application for designation, municipalities must pass a public resolution in support of the district and hold public hearings. To date, the majority of the seventeen municipalities that have won designation have passed a unanimous vote, a fascinating result in a state where local debate on myriad issues is often contentious. Even in our most cash strapped districts, some municipalities have also committed funds in support of this agenda.

And the legislation in support of cultural districts is designed to boost their efforts. Perhaps the most far reaching element of the bill is the following language: Executive branch agencies, constitutional offices and quasi-governmental agencies shall identify programs and services that support and enhance the development of cultural districts and ensure that those programs and services are accessible to such districts.

This means that other state agencies are available to discuss cultural district plans and whether their initiatives are appropriate for a district’s plan of action. Some additional programs and services include: strategic community planning, marketing and promotion, historic property stewardship, way finding signage, open space programming, and economic development. Read the rest of this entry »

John McInerney

John McInerney

Americans for the Arts (AFTA), recently released Local Arts Agencies Salaries, 2013, a survey of 700 national service organizations that serve the cultural sector. While salaries in the nonprofit sector are usually below those in the for profit sector, salaries for leadership arts service positions seem reasonable given the overall environment and the salaries in the entertainment industry as a whole. The average salary for all executive directors in the AFTA survey is $78,394. For comparison, the mean salary for “Top Executive, Civic and Social Organization” by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) is $95,810. Service organization salaries also seem reasonable compared to Performing Arts Executive Directors, $96,85-(BLS), and Top Executive Director, Museum, Historical Site and Similar Institution, $106,000 (BLS)–particularly when you take into account that the BLS figures include both forprofit and nonprofit positions.

The Salary Survey is a comprehensive and insightful survey but, unfortunately, the real news here is not about salaries of local arts agencies executives. The real story lies in the stark lack of diversity amongst leaders of arts service organizations and the sector as a whole. Eighty six percent of respondents identified as white (90% of Executive Directors) and 75% were women. Perhaps even more troubling, only 2% of respondents identified as Black/African American. The Voice of NonProfit Talent has documented that this lack of diversity carries through the full nonprofit sector, with overall nonprofit employment being approximately 82 percent white, 10 percent African-American, and five percent Hispanic/Latino. While I can’t source a definitive survey of just cultural nonprofits, I think it is reasonable to assume that results for culture would be similar, in particular when one looks at the demographic make up of the majority of cultural audiences and the demographics of the many cultural sector conferences for arts professionals annually.  Read the rest of this entry »

Theresa Cameron

Theresa Cameron

What a great week of blogs in our first Blog Salon on Arts, Cultural and Entertainment districts. Thanks to our bloggers and all our commentators, followers on Twitter, and Facebook fans.

As I read each of these blogs I was reminded of how the arts help improve and engage communities, and more specifically, how cultural districts help communities create identity and place.  Several of our bloggers were also presenters at our preconference that was held in Pittsburgh this June, and I found their comments about the preconference to be very thought provoking.  For example, Greg Handberg began to think differently about his work and the difference between informal and formal types of districts. And Adele Fleet Bacow reminded us that it’s not just the wedding or the honeymoon – it’s the ongoing partnerships that count. Special thanks to John Eger for his inspiring words about art and culture districts being vital to ensuring vibrant economic activity in our cities. They are foreshadowing a whole new economy based upon creativity and innovation. As President Obama stated, “We need to out-innovate, out-educate, and out-build the rest of the world.” So thanks again to all of our bloggers for their willingness to dig deep into this subject.

Finally, thanks to you – our readers – for participating in this great week of cultural district blogs.  I hope that you will continue to revisit this blog salon in the future for more creative ideas and inspiration.  Fortunately, all of the posts will be archived here. And if you are ever interested in blogging yourself, just send us an e-mail.  Keep in touch.

Pam

Pam Atchinson

Shreveport Common is a nine-block “Creative Community,” located in the Louisiana-designated 25-block Cultural District of Shreveport, where residents get Historic Tax sales tax credits for purchasing original art. Shreveport Common is distinguished as a Creative Placemaking project by artists at the helm of revitalizing this historically rich yet blighted community.

Shreveport, Louisiana is the birthplace of music and art that has played a significant role in our national history. There are 11 cultural venues within one block of all sites in Shreveport Common; 12 sites are National Historic Landmarks. Renowned musicians such as Cab Calloway, Elvis Presley, Hank Williams, Duke Ellington, Huddy Ledbetter got their start here. Municipal Auditorium was home to the famous KWKH Louisana Hayride radio broadcast, heard across 10 states.  The Calanthean Temple, America’s first sky-scraper that was designed, funded, and built by African Americans, boasted a rooftop stage that attracted musicians from all over the country.  The area is so rich in musical heritage that Robert Plant (of the rock band Led Zeppelin) drove 180 miles to Shreveport following a concert in Dallas to walk the streets for inspiration –specifically Sprague Street, once home to the Blue Goose musicians.

The organizational partnership behind Shreveport Common includes public and private investors who are implementing a National Endowment for the Arts MICD 25th Anniversary funded Vision Plan. Teams of artists, developers, municipal department heads, and non-profits are executing a portfolio of 36 strategies based on authenticity, sustainability, creativity, and community.

Only 800 residents currently live in the area, most in transitional housing. However, new affordable artist housing and exciting market-value, mixed-use developments will join current Section-8 housing. The Vision Plan also engages the area’s social service organizations by forming innovative collaborations with artists’ Pay-It-Forward and Workforce programs. A plethora of functional and aesthetic Public Art, both permanent and temporary, will be combined with consistent programming designed to drive and sustain vibrancy in the district. Read the rest of this entry »

ARTSblog holds week-long Blog Salons, a series of posts by guest bloggers, that focus on an overarching theme within a core area of Americans for the Arts' work. Here are links to the most recent Salons:

Arts Education

Teaching Artists

Early Arts Education

Common Core Standards

Quality, Engagement & Partnerships

Emerging Leaders

Charting the Future of the Arts

Taking Communities to the Next Level

New Methods & Models

Public Art

Best Practices

Evaluation

Arts Marketing

Audience Engagement

Winning Audiences

Powered by Community

Animating Democracy

Arts & the Military

Scaling Up Programs & Projects

Social Impact & Evaluation

Humor & Social Change

Private Sector Initatives

Arts & Business Partnerships

Business Models in the Arts

Local Arts Agencies

Cultural Districts

Economic Development

Trends, Collaborations & Audiences

Art in Rural Communities

Alec Baldwin and Nigel Lythgoe talk about the state of the arts in America at Arts Advocacy Day 2012. The acclaimed actor and famed producer discuss arts education and what inspires them.